This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Blueberry Cheesecake at Black Vanilla
Panjim seems to be a rapidly expanding destination for eating. The sheer volume of cafés and restaurants that have popped up in the city over the last two-three years are a testament to that fact. There was a time where Panjim had a fixed number of ‘go-to’ places, and if you felt peckish, that was all that the city offered. It was a very ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ kind of relationship that the inhabitants and the geographical space shared, and it was a status quo that was accepted by the general populace. However, this is no longer the case.
One of these fairly new entrants is one that I am particularly fond of, known as Black Vanilla. It is part of a chain of restaurants that has been cropping up in and around the city; the proprietors of this establishment already having set up sister concerns like Barrels & Bones within city limits, and Thirsty Bear and En Route in Bambolim. Black Vanilla’s little café-esque vibe is warm, softly lit and extremely comforting, the kind of place you love on a day off from work, and one that you hate when you pop out for a quick bite from work, simply because once in, you don’t look forward to leaving the premises. It’s cosy, rustic, and fairly European in terms of its vibe.
In keeping with the trend of cafés that are springing up across the country, this one offers ‘world cuisine’. Let’s just leave it at one of the names on the menu: ‘Chipotle Paneer with Sundried Tomato Sandwich’. Better yet, how about what is possibly my favourite dish on the menu, ‘Mac & Cheese Pizza’? Now that you have a fair idea of what to expect from the place, let us proceed further. If you’re expecting a typical sandwich, cease and desist, because there are many who like to grip their sandwiches ala Gerald, who was responsible for its creation. However, here they are worked on in the tartine form, which means that your toppings are laid up, and it’s ideal to cut into them. It’s come from the French, what else could we expect?
But if you’ve moved past that, then here’s the array of tartines on offer that is sure to leave you curious, all of which are healthy and made on either multigrain or whole-wheat bread: Fresh Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese; Baby Spinach, Button Mushroom, Arugula and Garlic; Spicy Baked Bean; Tuna, Jalapeño and Black Olives; Pulled Chicken, Cheddar Cheese and BBQ Sauce; Goan Sausage with Caramelised Onions; and Black Pepper Beef with Mushroom. Add the aforementioned chipotle one to this list and you’ve rounded off the stack.
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Goan Sausage Tartine with Caramelised Onions
Just like they do their sandwiches differently, the burgers are handled in an off-beat manner as well. For instance, they are made in a bagel, instead of a bun. As a bagel lover, I can completely relate. From combinations that include the likes of Blackened Carrot, and Beetroot, to Sunflower Seed and Grilled Veggies with Haloumi Cheese; and from an Asian-inspired Sweet Soy-Glazed Pork Burger to my favourite Turkey Bagel, the line-up is rather impressive. If you can honestly say that none of the above piques your interest, well, you can’t possibly be human.
This brings us to a part of most menus that I normally just glance over. The kind you wave at, as it passes by, glad to see the back of it: salads. However, as they have a couple that I’m fond of, and as many people reading this like salads, let us just dip our toes into the water. Let’s start off with my favourites: Watermelon and Feta, and Muskmelon and Prosciutto. Those, you can’t possibly go wrong with. Then comes the crowd pleaser, the Caesar Salad. At Black Vanilla, it is made incorporating calamari and shrimp. They also make a Red Wine Poached Pear Salad and an All-Green Salad (which, in my opinion, is a VERY acquired taste). Lastly, they offer something which I think comes in handy. They call it the OFS, or Own Freaking Salad, wherein one can choose what they would like to work with from an array of options.
There is also an array of pizzas on offer, and as I mentioned earlier, my favourite dish on the seemingly off-beat menu comes from this place: the Mac & Cheese Pizza. However, they do know how to go mainstream too, with the pizza offerings expanding to the likes of the standard-issue Margherita, BBQ Chicken, Verdure, Classic Pepperoni, Goan Sausage, and Chicken Salami with Black Olives. Where they go off the grid is with their Beef Mince with Jalapeño and Gruyere; and Smoked Salmon options, both of which are thoroughly enjoyable, in my opinion.
Black Vanilla also has a host of beverage options, far too exhaustive to get into. However, what I will say is this, the presentation is outstanding. The Mason jar, with a straw passing through the lid has long since been a concept that I have absolutely loved, and is one that is incorporated here.
This brings me to the only critique I have when it comes to the place. Not everything is always available, and it is something that happens more often than I like. I’m one of those believers in the concept of, ‘if it’s on the menu, it should be available to the public’. This isn’t always the case here, and more often than not, it happens with my favourite dish, the Mac & Cheese Pizza.
However, I have thus far not been able to fault the end product here, and that is after sampling an array of dishes on offer. The menu is so experimental here that it’s safe to say that it’s far from being vanilla.
Black Vanilla is a place with a vibe that is on par with any Bohemian café across the world, and has warm and pleasant service.
The menu here is more off-beat than mainstream, and is something that should be accounted for before heading there.
The average cost of a meal for two, minus the libations is ₹1,000 (at the time of publishing this review).
How to get there
S-4, Ground Floor, Landscape Excelsior, Campal, Panjim, Goa 403001
Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.